Thursday, 31 May 2012

Letter to Monty 36

Dear Monty,

Pests, prophecy and communion.

30/5/12  Almost the end of the month of May - a beautiful and eventful month. A prophet has no real home, but a garden comes near to it somehow. I visited The Veddw yesterday. I was struck by the warmth of Charles and Anne. They are an intriguing couple and the garden is an expression of them, it is in a kind of tension between wilderness and formality - it has wild woodland which opens out on to the sculpted hollow within which the house sits. For some reason - I am not sure why - it reminds me of Portmeirion - echos of it perhaps in the sculptural elements like the buzzards and the dove.

Somewhere I have seen a photograph of Rowan know the hairy Archbishop of Canterbury - with an audience seated below the borders. So it has this theatrical feel, a performance space.

It is definitely a photographers garden (my snaps don't do it justice) There are so many vistas with the light bouncing off horizontal, vertical and wavy cake-like clipped hedges. It is deliberately feasting the eye with structure, almost a carved out feeling, carved out of the hillside like the cottage ruins in the grounds now incorporated into the garden, part of the history of the place. Monty you would love it. Alan Titchmarsh may want to fiddle with it, but I am not sure Anne would let him.

Back in my little garden today I am looking with renewed vision, that means so much to me.

Charles showed me the Monty way of getting rid of Lily beetles without pesticides. We all find our own ways. Having thought about the issue, it seems to me that it depends on whether you are an anxious gardener - a perfectionist.

Here is the truth, we will never achieve perfection, as hard as it may be to swallow. I have found that letting plants be eaten, although disheartening is just a fact of life in the real world and in real living gardens. Real living has its highs and lows, a garden is no different - but with patience, time and a shift in attitude and planting techniques- the wildlife and the planting develops, the balance becomes such that the robust plants survive (including so-called weeds) and birds, hedgehogs, frogs, toads and insects and plants deal with each other. It is about living with 'failure'. It is about looking at gardens with new eyes. The Veddw has helped me in this respect.

Yours truly,


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Letter to Monty 35


Gardens, statistics and singing.

I have been resting my tired brain, tired from all the inputting of information into the machine.

20/5/12  Dawn chorus of woodpidgeon, raven, chiffchaff, pheasant and cuckoo - a song before sunrise.

Today I read that King David was stirred up to do a census of his fighting men. It seems he lost his ability to trust and needed to count in order to have evidence of strength. We still love counting, love evidence, our whole political system is based on numbers, statistics, strategies, reports and enquiries. We spend a lot of time money and energy compiling them. There is no rest for those who need to count.

I walked up Carn Ingli again, a song without words. The landscape resonates with the melody, the curve of hills, valley and bay below. A 360 degree song. The landscape carved by the hand of God using water, wind, ice, flood and fault to sculpt this land which is still being made. I in a brief moment in the vastness of time breathe in the song of heaven deeply. Just as I am doing this I meet a psychologist.

21/5/12  Another walk up the hill, this time to draw. A butterfly lands on my drawing, it seems like an amen, a sealed moment of pure joy.

24/5/12  Last day at Nant y blodau bach. Walked from Newport around the coastal path from Parrog to a small inlet below the cliffs. Then we walked up a woodland path through what seemed like a secret garden, with a 'Japanese' waterfall with luxurious moss covered stones. Then up onto wild moorland and along ancient byways past the old watermill to the Norman castle and church of Newport. This place really does make the soul sing.

27/5/12 Mysterious wisdom. Martin Amis spoke of the certainty of death, of ageing, of life moving toward death. He pointed out how animals have no concept of death, they live in the now. We however have brains which contemplate death, if this is a product of natural can it be an advantage? There are so many questions but the answer is in the rest, amen.

Home in the garden, it changed so much in a week. Since visiting Pembrokeshire I have fallen in love with our native plants and I am determined to allow them to be part of this garden.

Didn't see you at Chelsea, but then you are off filming for your next series in France. Looking forward to it.


Saturday, 19 May 2012

letter to Monty 34


I am sentimental.

Communing with angels, enjoying ferns and walking the dog.

'The lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.'

16/5/12 Speaking about the sacking of the Liverpool FC manager, a reporter said that in today's world 'success is more important than sentiment'.

Sentiment is frowned upon as something weak and wet, it holds no weight - it is just about 'feelings' - as though feelings are only for the feeble minded - yet we all have them do we not?
This makes me so angry!

Sentiment is belief, faith, trust, confidence - dependence on, a reliance. How has it got turned into something not worth giving notice to? We only listen to success now. This is why some of us (including myself) look for it everywhere. Facebook users admit to exaggerating their profiles in order to have an air of success.
Once achieved, we have to keep ourselves successful with all of the effort that entails. Now I am not saying that success is evil or wrong - but when it pushes belief or sentiment into the dark as being somehow unworthy, I think we loose something of great value in society.

It seems that with failure comes abandonment and embarrassment - we become ashamed of failure but it is the key to success.
Belief was not enough for those who wanted instant results for Liverpool F.C.
The belief of or in others despite their performance is what I am rambling on about, grace is the old fashioned word for it. Belief and acceptance by fellow imperfect people goes a long way to creating a kind of success that is beyond fame or fortune. It is a treasure or pearl worth selling everything for and buying the field where it is hidden.

18/5/12  Back in the little cottage in Newport Pembs. It is like breathing deeply - surrounded by trees - short walk to the baker the butcher but no candlestick maker, and on to the salty sea and sky.

I saw you plant ferns and water lilies. Some things are worth waiting for. Rain pours down the gully on the other side of the lane. Tomorrow - hill walk after breakfast.

19/5/12  Toff and I communed with angels on Carn Ingli. Halos of cloud over the dark moody hills. Acid green and pink tinged carpet of windberry interspersed with dark heather.
Ferns cling on low to the short turf cropped by this years lambs. Ferns really do grow anywhere.
The buzzard circled the top of the hill.
I saw my first cuckoo - heard it call loud to the left of me - it flew out of the trees to eventually fade into the distance, calling all the while, long tail and low to the ground - beautiful sound.

Have a happy day Monty.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Letter to Monty 33

Dearest Monty,

Watched the Malvern GW last night, and I am now convinced that you are a genuine bloke, and that your love of gardening is a true love.

Why is it so hard to be happy just being a quiet soul ? Step out of Twitter or Facebook or blogger and what do you see ?

I got so excited last week when James A Sinclair 'followed' sad is that !?

In the real world of my Ystalyfera garden today, I redefined the path edges by cutting the grass with a pair of scissors, and have the blisters to prove it. I replaced the turf by the first pot on the 'lawn', I brought out the seedlings to harden them off. Then I just suddenly realised how fortunate I am to have a garden, I don't need to be a medal winner or horticulturally perfect, I can just marvel at new leaves in the sunshine.

I did marvel at James' hat last night.

As a card that a friend recently bought me says...'if you want to be happy forever take up gardening'.

Goodnight  Monty.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Letter to Monty 32

Monty I am making this up as I go along.


I do this with the garden, I just get ideas, let them stew a bit then have a go. The weeds are coming on a treat, the washing blows artfully on the washing line and the potting shed/greenhouse does indeed look like a crime scene. My father and father-in-law would both be horrified by my lack of cleanliness and care.

Profanity, I always thought that profanity was all about being foul mouthed...yet again I show how much I have to learn. Profanity means making common something that is essentially holy and deeply spiritual.

I am profane. I realise there is something mysterious about profanity. David the Old Testament man marked out by God as leader of Israel in place of poor Saul, took the showbread from the priest and broke it and gave it to his hungry men.(He was on the run from Saul whom he had snubbed) Taking the holy bread offered to God was unprecedented, yet God who had struck men dead for similar profanity allowed this to happen. He allowed the holy to be made common and so it is today. The commonplace is holy, the small and simple things are deeply meaningful. The weak and the vulnerable the failing and the frail are holy.
Here endeth this mornings lesson....and this after a girls night out. Yes I am an honorary girl after 25 years of working in a predominantly female dominated profession...girls can drink !

Mistletoe, the white berries rubbed into the bark of the maple and apple trees in the garden, inspired by you Monty when at the garden in Berryfields...have germinated 2 years after the squishing.
I am starting something new here as mistletoe is very rare in these parts..this is an industrial area, I live on top of a coal mine. There are houses here that tip and slant...a bit like the girls after a few drinks.

I am going to throw a thousand flowers to the blushing maid now.

Bye Montagu.